The special election for the 5th congressional district race is less than a week away, but other Louisiana congressional races for 2014 are slowly brewing as well.
The millions of dollars in the campaign chest of U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge and the added support of U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., have warded off strong GOP contenders other than Cassidy in his bid to unseat Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., next year.
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, of Madisonville, is in the race and has repeatedly argued that Cassidy is a dreaded RINO, that is, “Republican In Name Only.” Such claims — false or not — have added to the continuing whispers of others signing up.
State Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, is currently the most vocal one considering the Senate bid, and he is saying he will decide by the end of the year.
Seabaugh, who has entrenched himself as one of the most conservative state legislators, said Friday that he thinks he can win, but he also refused to criticize Cassidy. “I’m definitely to the right of Mary Landrieu, which is the main reason I’m looking to enter the race,” Seabaugh said.
Such words were softened from a previous interview with The Times of Shreveport when Seabaugh said the “candidate who’s going to challenge Mary is not in the race yet” and argued that Cassidy is not conservative enough to win.
Cassidy said he is not concerned, and noted that eight people were on the ballot when Vitter last ran for reelection.
“It only costs $800 bucks to qualify,” Cassidy said. “It’s someone getting free press they otherwise wouldn’t get.
“But unless they’re actually working hard on the issues like the flood insurance program … like Obamacare — not just getting rid of some of the worst provisions, but actually coming up with alternatives — you’re just trying to get publicity,” Cassidy said.
Another race much more in flux, though, is determining the pool of candidates vying to replace Cassidy in the 6th congressional district seat he is vacating.
A bevy of state legislators were jockeying for position to run once Cassidy announced his intentions.
Now, not so much.
State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, was among those seriously considering running, but Claitor now says he is “strongly disinclined” to enter the race.
Claitor said people are “falling over themselves” to run in the 14-person field in the 5th District. But the Baton Rouge-based 6th District field is surprisingly thin thus far.
“I’d like to see some real depth to the pool,” Claitor said.
“I don’t think anybody in their right mind would want to go to Congress right now. It seems very discouraging and distasteful,” Claitor said, adding that good candidates, though, are needed to help turn things around.
The only known candidates currently planning to run are first-term East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Councilman Ryan Heck and young Baton Rouge business owner Paul Dietzel II.
Both are Republicans. The only other formally declared candidate is Democratic real estate broker Richard Dean Lieberman, of LaPlace.
State Sen. Rick Ward III, R-Maringouin, had announced his plans to run and then quickly backed out, citing family reasons.
State Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, said he is strongly considering the race and hopes to decide by the end of November.
Chabert said he is frustrated with the “out-of-touch” members of Congress –— he excluded the Louisiana delegation — and said he believes he could enact some good.
“I’m fully aware it’s going to be an uphill battle, though,” Chabert said, noting the geography of the Baton Rouge-dominated district works against someone from Houma.
Someone like Republican state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Chas Roemer, of Baton Rouge, could still jump in. Some other potential candidates do not even live in the district, which is not a requirement. Former state Rep. Tony Perkins, R-Baker, who spends most of his time in Washington, D.C. as the president of the conservative Family Research Council, has been mentioned as a possible candidate.
And former Congressman Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, could still opt in.
“While I don’t have a comment on the 6th congressional district race, I will be in Baton Rouge all day tomorrow (Saturday) at the LSU-Florida game,” Landry said Friday in an email response.
Jordan Blum is chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email email@example.com.